While going to a new place is exciting, it can also be challenging. We’ve talked about it before, but culture is an area that sometimes takes the most adjustment for a newcomer to a country. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, culture is defined as:
The beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time; a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.; a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business).
Even if you prefer your new culture to what you’ve been used to, it may still take some getting used to. It’s not something that people can turn on and off. It takes time and some attitude changes.
Have an open mind
We, as humans, tend to get set in our ways. As a result, we often fail to see the big picture. ESL educators that fall into this trap may have some difficulty adjusting to their new environment. It’s challenging because it’s new and foreign, no matter how many books you’ve read and how much research you’ve done before you arrive.
Instead, the best approach you can take is to have an open mind. Take each day in stride. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you should enjoy it and embrace the new and the different.
Don’t be a know-it-all
Confidence is a strong trait to possess, but it should be handled delicately when it comes to using your TESOL certification. While you should be confident in the classroom and your ability to teach, you should not be overly confident when it comes to local interaction.
All that research you’ve done and all those books you’ve read will give you an idea about your new place of residence, but if you go into this new place and act like you really know how the locals live their daily lives, you may run into some trouble. If the tables were turned and someone came to visit your home, you wouldn’t like it if they acted like they knew everything just because they could recite the guidebooks and the Wikipedia story related to your home.
Chances are, if you are TESOL certified or wanting to become TESOL certified, you probably aren’t shy. Still, you will likely experience some culture shock when you arrive at your new residence. One of the best ways to adapt in a new environment is to be friendly and ask questions. If you walk the streets and inquire about the food, the history, sites to see and other areas of interest, the locals will come to respect you. Also, you’ll gain a better understanding of your new home and how you can enjoy your time there.
Culture is a loaded term consisting of arts, food, behaviors and so much more, which is why it is not easy for most people to grasp in a short period of time. But, if you take a different approach and understand that, in addition to teaching others, you are embarking on one of the biggest learning experiences of your life, you will be able to adapt to your new culture. This will make your time teaching English abroad much more enjoyable as well.